A Saturday of April. Fragments of work and life. A patchwork that flows, I flow from one aim, intention, memory, sensation, feeling, commitment, community, geography, to the next one.
As I bicycle to the industrial neighbourhood of Bovisa I think of last night, a dinner with five women in a tiny family restaurant hotel in another periphery near the hospital of Niguarda. Two professors, two PhDs, and one lectures soon without a job but with a promising interview in her local library. Three Italian and two Norwegian on a visiting scholarship. All working for and with communities and writing together apart, in different configurations depending on the text, the topic, and the occasion.
In the afternoon three of us shared a walking performance of carrying and caring, carrying raw earth for building houses, livelihoods, villages, hopes, and relationships.
Ph Gaia Del Negro, Women Carrying Earth performance walk, artist-architect Maddalena Ferraresi (at the centre), Milan, 21st april 2023.
I get off my bike and talk to Enzo who gives me back my old computer we still try to keep going. He is moving house over the weekend, moving back with his wife after 20 years living together apart, he in Milan and she on the Como lake. Now she asked him to move back together for what remains to live of their lives, and what could I say, he says, I said yes, we move together, this will be our last home on the lake in Como. Milan is not good for living, only for work.
I cycle back home, park the bike in my kitchen since it is not safe to leave your bike outside and I have no more accessible space for it. Plus I like to see her, a stable life companion I can invest various feelings on, she won’t mind. The tube takes me to the city centre south, where I buy a cheap mobile phone for an unrecognised association I work for, a network of universities, a bunch of passionate people doing research and sharing knowledge about adults learning in the university (migrants, unqualified, people changing careers, women), an uncommon imaginary of adult learning in Italy. You study, you work, you make a family, you retire. Linear learning lives is the traditional understanding that is hard to change.
On the tube a young woman talks loudly on her phone. “You write 5 things that make you happy, and if that does not work, you write another 5 things that make you relaxed. What things?". She pauses and adds: "I do not know, Mum. Your 5 things. I wrote something like... classical music... seeing and talking to the people I love.... writing my thoughts in my diary.... walking, walking really slows me down yes Mum, it makes my day.”
Ph Gaia Del Negro And the young woman said to the wolf, "What a big heart you have". "It is juts my anger". So she said: "What a bi anger you have". "It is to hide my heart from you", Erin Doom. Milan, 22nd april 2023
I get back with the new cheap phone and set it up. I cook and eat and go to my computer for finishing an article on women emancipation and technologies in the women’s movement in Iran. I translate it with a free online tool and share it with Chiara my co-author, it will be our first article together, collaborating in difference, together and apart, my second article in Italian after many in English, myself together and apart, and I change clothes and go for a walk on the canal nearby.
In the courtyard I come across two neighbours chatting. The man living with three dogs and with two daughters now living on their own asks me if my hair looks blue, he cannot see very well, he cannot he says, he is not pulling my lag he assures me. The woman intervenes maybe trying to help and asks me if my hair is natural and says I am young, implying the question has implications connecting my hair and my age. I am not young, I am almost 40 and yes, my white hair is natural, I do not colour it, it is white not blue. I say I like it as it is, it is Ok nowadays to have your hair as you like it. Coloured or while as you like it. I think about all the colours I have had, red, pink, violet, brown, orange. I remember when I had to take away a piece of violet hair for an internship in a multinational company in 2011. But I do not say this, I am bored to say the same things in 2023. I do not need to justify myself.
Do you know me?
Really know me?
You have opinions about my opinions
About music about my clothes
About my body some poeple hate what I wear
Some people praise it Some poeple use it to shame others
Some people use it to shame me But I feel you watching...
Do my shoulders provoke you? Does my chest? Am I my stomach? My hips?
The body I was born with Is it not what you wanted?...
Or is your opinion of me
Not my responsibility?
(Not my responsibility, Billie Eilish, 2021)
He says his daughter does not like her white hair, and I say it is Ok, as she likes it. The man asks if I am going to the mountains, I do not know what he means, I say I will go to the 25th April Anniversary of the Liberation from nazifascism march on Tuesday, be careful it is dangerous he says, somehow I know he is puzzled by me but is not against me. I say no, I have been going for many years, I meet friends there, you can come, with the dogs he says, one for me and two for you he says, I say why not come all are welcome.
After walking I sit in a public garden reading a book, My Father’s Notebook by exiled Iranian-Dutch writer Kader Abdolah, that a friend Spanish language teacher in the Women Choir suggested to me. Around me groups of young men migrants talking and enjoying the sun, further downhill Pakistani and Indian men playing cricket, a mixed group playing mini soccer, some families picnicking, and the music of Bolivian dance in the community hall underneath the hill I am sitting on. I walk back thinking writing is a way to have a conversation with fragments from your many days, years, and belongings.
Ph Gaia Del Negro My favourite season is the FALL of the Islamic Republic #Masha Amini #Free Iran, Alessandra Attiasese, Italian Women Photographers Association, Martesana canal, Milan, 22nd april 2023.
Chiara agreed for me to send our article to the Iranian woman and academic colleague in Canada who answered by writing two questions on her experience of women protests and social media in Iran. So I send her our article to check that she is happy with what we made of her story. I change back into city clothes and get back on my bike and I am off to the cinema for Il sol dell’avvenire the last movie by Nanni Moretti, a beloved director with wonderful irony making political films with an intimate reflection on our lives, loves, dreams, fears, landscapes, movements, educations, cultural market, and historical imaginaries. Outside the movie I meet Maria Grazia Gambardella, a lecturer in sociology and feminist studies with a friend. The film is great. Moretti at his best, light and deep, light and deep. This movie is a fellinian dreamy multilayered narration composing an autobiographical viewpoint of the director making a film on the italian communist party at the URSS invasion of Hungary in 1956, the deranged film industry of Netflix in 2023, and his fragile yet lively family dynamics and psychoanalysis, with another possible musical story of the negotiations and poetics of love discourse of a young couple learning to invent new gender roles in the 1970s. What is love, what is politics?
I laugh and hope and feel connected with a shared destiny and with myselves, our couscous cooking and looking for new ways to be. We say goodbye with Maria Grazia and her friend and I go to take the bike for the last ride.
As I am unlocking the bike, an old man standing there asks me, did you like it? Yes I say, very much, and he says no, he did not like it, and he adds with a worried face, Nanni seems to make a caricature of himself, well... yes I say, it is self-irony, and he says he was a kid in 1956 and it is not good how this films communicates about that time in history and the communist party to foreign people, the film, it goes everywhere. And I say yes, it is not a documentary, if one wants to know more they can look for information.
The bike takes me home light and deep in the spring night.
Ph Gaia Del Negro Social Protests 8th march 2023 temporary exhibition, Association of Women Italian Photographers + FAS Aps, 240 photographs, by 14 authors, taken in different Italian cities in 2022, testimonies of the squares and movements on climate, peace, labour and women's freedom of choice issues, tunnel Sammartini-Spoleto, Milan 22nd april 2023.